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Since nature cannot choose his origin,)
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,1
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason;
Or by some habit, that too much o'erleavens
The form of plausive manners ;-that these men,—
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect;
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,2-
Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo)

Shall in the general censure3 take corruption
From that particular fault. The dram of bale
Doth all the noble substance often doubt"
To his own scandal.

Enter Ghost.


Look, my lord, it comes! Ham. Angels and ministers of grace, defend us! Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned, Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked, or charitable,

Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,

1 Complexion for humor.

2 i. e. the influence of the planet supposed to govern our birth, &c.


3 i. e. judgment, opinion.

4 The last paragraph of this speech stands in the quarto editions thus:


Steevens reads:


the dram of eale

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt

To his own scandal."

The dram of base

Doth all the noble substance often dout [i. e. do out]
To his own scandal."

Malone proposed :—


The dram of base

Doth all the noble substance of worth dout
To his own scandal."

There seems to be no reason why dout should be substituted for doubt. Mr. Boswell has justly observed, that to doubt may mean to bring into doubt or suspicion; many words similarly formed are used by Shakspeare and his contemporaries. We have ventured to read bale (i. e. evil) instead of base, as nearer to the reading of the first edition.

5 Questionable must not be understood in its present acceptation of doubtful, but as conversable, inviting question.

That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee, Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me.
Let me not burst in ignorance! but tell,
Why thy canónized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements! why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurned,'
Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again! What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again, in cómplete steel,2
Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous; and we fools of nature,
So horridly to shake our disposition,3
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?
Hor. It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone.

Mar. Look, with what courteous action It waves you to a more removed ground! But do not go with it.

No, by no means.
Ham. It will not speak; then I will follow it.
Hor. Do not, my lord.

Why, what should be the fear? I do not set my life at a pin's fee; And, for my soul, what can it do to that, Being a thing immortal as itself? It waves me forth again;—I'll follow it.

Hor. What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,

Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff,
That beetles o'er his base into the sea?


And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason,5
And draw you into madness? Think of it.

1 Quarto 1603-interred.

2 It appears, from Olaus Wormius, cap. vii., that it was the custom to bury the Danish kings in their armor.

3 Frame of mind.

4 i. e. overhangs his base.

5 To deprive your sovereignty of reason," signifies to take from you or dispossess you of the command of reason.

The very place puts toys1 of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain,
That looks so many fathoms to the sea,
And hears it roar beneath.


Go on, I'll follow thee.
Mar. You shall not go, my lord.

Hor. Be ruled; you shall not go.

It waves me still.

Hold off your hands.

And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.-

My fate cries out,

Ghost. Mark me.

[Ghost beckons.

Still am I called ;-unhand me, gentlemen ;[Breaking from them. By Heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me: say, away;-go on, I'll follow thee.


[Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET. Hor. He waxes desperate with imagination. Mar. Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him. Hor. Have after.-To what issue will this come? Mar. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Hor. Heaven will direct it.


Nay, let's follow him.


SCENE V. A more remote Part of the Platform.

Enter Ghost and HAMLET.

Ham. Whither wilt thou lead me? speak, I'll go no further.

I will.

Ghost. My hour is almost come, When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames Must render up myself.

1 i. e. whims.

2 To let, in old language, is to hinder, to stay, to obstruct.


Alas, poor ghost!

Ghost. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing To what I shall unfold.


Speak; I am bound to hear. Ghost. So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear. Ham. What?

Ghost. I am thy father's spirit;

Doomed for a certain term to walk the night;
And, for the day, confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes, done in my days of nature,
Are burned and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,

I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood;
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres ;
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,

And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine.2
But this eternal blazon must not be

To ears of flesh and blood.-List, list, O, list!

If thou didst ever thy dear father love,

Ham. O Heaven!

Ghost. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. Ham. Murder?

Ghost. Murder most foul, as in the best it is;

But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

Ham. Haste me to know it; that I, with wings as swift

As meditation, or the thoughts of love,

May sweep to my revenge.


I find thee apt;

And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,3

1 The first quarto reads:

"Confined in flaming fire."

2 Vide note on The Comedy of Errors, Act iii. Sc. 2. It is porpentine in the old editions in every instance. Fretful is the reading of the folio; the quartos read fearful.

In the Humorous Lieutenant, by

3 The folio reads rots itself, &c. Beaumont and Fletcher, we have:

"This dull root plucked from Lethe's flood."

Now, Hamlet, hear.

Wouldst thou not stir in this.
'Tis given out, that, sleeping in mine orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life,1
Now wears his crown.

Ham. O my prophetic soul! my uncle!

Ghost. Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts, (O wicked wit, and gifts, that have the power So to seduce!) won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming virtuous queen. O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there! From me, whose love was of that dignity, That it went hand in hand even with the vow I made to her in marriage; and to decline Upon a wretch, whose natural gifts were poor To those of mine!

But virtue, as it never will be moved,

Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven;
So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,

And prey on garbage.

But soft! methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be.-Sleeping within mine orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon,


Upon my secure 2 hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of mine ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man,
That, swift as quicksilver, it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body;
And with a sudden vigor, it doth posset

1 Quarto, 1603-heart.

2 This is also a Latinism; securus, quiet, or unguarded.

3 Hebenon may probably be derived from henbane, the oil of which, according to Pliny, dropped into the ears, disturbs the brain; and there is sufficient evidence that it was held poisonous by our ancestors.

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